Welcome to the fourth article in my five-part Website Launch Blog Series. In the first blog of the series, I covered the Website Project Plan and why a detailed briefing document is important to your website project. In the second blog of the Website Launch Blog Series, I covered the Proposal Phase and how you bridge from website briefing to finding the right vendor. In the third blog, I discussed how you can ensure that your website developer is suitable for your project and I also started to discuss the first steps of building your website, the Project Phase.
In this fourth blog, I will continue to discuss the Project Phase of your website project, including the testing phase, and I will also cover the fifth and final step of the 5-Step Website Launch Process – the Website Launch.
5-Step Website Launch Process:
At this stage of the web development project, you should have completed the following:
- Developed a detailed briefing document
- Submitted a RFP (Request for Proposal) and selected a vendor
- Established a working relationship with a developer whose skillset matches that of your website needs
- Decided on a layout/theme for your site and have briefed your developer on your branding and website objectives
- Developed the content for your site
Approve Initial Design
At this point, your developer will provide you with the layout of the site map, as well as the draft homepage and shell for the interior pages for your approval. Make sure that you are pleased with the design and layout of these pages before proceeding. Ensure that the look of the initial design matches the branding of your company.
To continue where I left off in our third blog, at this point, you should have drafted your web content for your site. Once your content has gone through the editing process, give it to your web developer to distribute throughout the site. Once this is done, your website will start to resemble a finished product – but you’re not done yet – you will need to approve the site with the content as well as test its functionality.
When the content is added to the site, make sure that it looks good in the space allotted. Also check that the images fit the content on the page. Lastly, ensure that the content is search engine optimized, meaning that you do your best to ensure that your content will be picked up by search engines for the keywords that are relevant to your audience. This will help you to rank high on the list of search engine results and ultimately bring more people to your site.
Once you have approved the website design – content and layout – and you are happy with the look of the site, it’s time to enter the testing phase, or pre-launch. This is an opportunity for you and your developer to go through the site in its entirety, leaving no rock unturned, to make sure absolutely everything is in fine working condition, prior to launching your site. Things that you and your developer will be looking for include:
- Does it integrate flawlessly with the CMS
- Do the “contact us” links work and do they forward to the appropriate email addresses
- All internal and external links direct to the appropriate pages (same window or new browser window)
- Are all forms current and do the completed forms forward to the appropriate email addresses
- Is the ecommerce solution (if applicable) working properly
- Do images display properly
- Are the headings and font consistent throughout the site
- Are the website pages compatible across browsers
- Are the website pages compatible across devices (Android, iPhone, tablets)
At this time, you should also go through the site to identify any issues that you may come across. Get a second opinion too! Don’t be afraid to ask a co-worker or colleague to review your site, the more eyes the better! When you review the site, make sure that the site reflects the initial brief, look at the following:
- Website Purpose – What is the purpose of the site? To provide information or close sales? Does the website provide this purpose?
- Target Audience – Who is the target audience? Who are your buyer personas and will your site appeal to them?
- Content – What information is your target audience searching for and you’re your site provide this information?
[Tweet “In the Testing Phase you ensure full alignment of your website with your strategy”]
Launching the Site – The fifth step in the 5-Step Website Launch Process
Once you and your developer has reviewed the site and made the necessary changes, you will determine that the site is ready for launch. At this time, the developer will move your site from the development server and upload all the relevant files to your hosting server. Now you are ready to launch. You will need to have your accounts for domain and web hosting ready. Before you “go live”, ensure your developer will complete the following last steps before pushing your site live:
- Check that the site content is search engine optimized
- Ensure that the sitemap is submitted to the major search engines
- Check that the site is set up for analytics
- Check that the site is protected from malware and set-up for regular backups
- Check that the site is compliant with any applicable laws and regulations
- Submit the site map to the main Search Engines
This is also the time that you want to prepare any marketing materials to promote your new site. Let your existing and potential customers know about your new site. You can do this via email marketing, social media or collateral.
Congratulations, your site is live!
Congratulations, your site is live, but this doesn’t mean that your job is done. Check back here next week, I will discuss what you should be doing post-launch to ensure that you are driving traffic to your site and using your website to generate leads.
By now you probably have a much better understanding of why I keep stressing that the strategy for your website is so important and why it pays to put effort into your Website Project Plan. Without such a well-rounded plan, many things can go wrong in your website project.
The launch might still be far away for you. But to get to the launch, you need to take the first step and develop your requirements.
We are almost at the end of this blog series. I’d love to get your comments how this is helping you with your Website Project.